Tag Archives: equalities

Layla Moran highlights period poverty in Parliament debate

On Wednesday this week, Layla Moran held a debate in Westminster Hall to highlight the issue of period poverty and the need to provide sanitary protection for those most vulnerable. It was an interesting debate, but there’s no good the minister making sympathetic noises and everybody agreeing with each other if the Government doesn’t do something about it. Layla pointed this out.

Here is her main speech but you can read all the interventions and the rest of the debate here. 

I am delighted to have secured this debate on an important topic that—let’s face it—remains taboo and is still a bit embarrassing for many people. It is precisely because no one wants to talk about it that I believe it is so critical that we do, so I will start by putting my money where my mouth is and telling the House one of my most embarrassing moments.

I was in the first week of a new school. I was 12. I was feeling very out of place and very lost. I saw a teacher beckoning me from the top of a stairwell. I walked towards her and said, “Yes, Miss? What did I do wrong?” I was convinced something was wrong. She said, “Don’t worry—everything’s fine, but I wanted to let you know that you have a stain of blood on your skirt.” Of course, it was not fine. I looked behind and on my light blue uniform there was indeed such a stain. My face went red, and then white. I remember going to the bathroom and crying, and when I stopped crying I called my mum. She came and we went home; I told the school that I wanted to go home to change. In fact, she had brought me another skirt, but I was just so mortified by how many people might have seen it and not said anything.

For me, that was a one-off and I was better prepared the next time, but for thousands of girls in this country, missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products is a regular occurrence. It is an outrage that in a country as wealthy as Britain we let that happen. Thanks to the double whammy of the stigma attached to both poverty and periods, we simply do not know the scale of the problem.

Food banks are now actively asking for donations of sanitary products. Teachers are dipping into their own pockets to keep supplies of sanitary products in their desks.

Many of us first realised that period poverty was such an issue for young women when it came to light that teachers in Leeds had got in touch with a charity called Freedom4Girls that provides sanitary products to women in Kenya and had asked whether it would be willing to give them a supply for girls in their school. They had noticed that girls were missing class at around the same time every month, like clockwork. Given the substitutes, including rolled-up toilet paper or old socks, that girls from low-income families are using, it is no surprise that they choose to stay home. Now, I admit that the rolled-up toilet tissue trick has served me well, but I can go and buy some products or go home. For these girls, it is a regular occurrence. It should not be.

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The building blocks of #metoo

Jared O’Mara is hardly the first MP to have been caught out expressing prejudiced views. It just goes to show that if you are known to have said something dodgy on the internet over a decade ago, it is likely to find its way into the hands of your political enemies.

For Liberal Democrats, though, it’s all a bit galling. O’Mara beat our Nick Clegg in a particularly cruel twist of fate in June’s General Election. His victory meant that Parliament was deprived of the most expert voice on Brexit. Where Nick fought for equality, O’Mara’s views as an adult have been far from civilised.

My first thought was to write a piece saying that he must stand down from the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament. Thankfully pressure was brought to bear on him and he resigned this evening as our Paul Scriven had demanded. Sadly that committee still has Philip Davies on it. He, you might remember, thinks that he and other men are voiceless and being drowned out by these feminist types.

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What Brexit means for women

Recently, an event was held in London, to discuss Brexit, and its effect on the rights of women and what might change following its implementation. As a participant, I had arrived with the view that it would be difficult to change the law as it stood, but new laws might be affected.

For the last 43 years, most if not all of our Equalities legislation has come through the European Union. For women in particular, that has changed both their entitlements and rights as matters from equal pay to maternity leave have been secured by that route. It is astonishing to think that women, up until that legislation was passed, had more rights in Anglo Saxon England than in the 800 or so years that followed the Norman invasion.

What transpired at the meeting caused much anxiety among those present. For it is the case that, as most if not all of our Equalities law emanates from Brussels. It has been adopted into UK law, so can be cut back by use of new powers currently going through Parliament.

There are several risk areas, according to the Fawcett Society, which cover rights at work, women’s economic life, safety from attacks and racism. Those explicitly protective of women such as the Pregnant Workers Directive, or indirect protection such as that provided by The Part Time Worker Directive and the Agency Directive, which protects pension rights, written contracts giving details of working hours and pay and parental leave. It matters for those working part time, where the majority are women.

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Cadan ap Tomos on Visit my Mosque day: We must bridge divisions in our communities

Today is Visit My Mosque Day, a chance for people to build links between communities.

Welsh Equalities Spokesperson Cadan ap Tomos has been doing exactly that, visiting the Dal Ul-Isra mosque in Cardiff.

He made a short video afterwards:

He added:

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Burt and Swinson comment on gender pay gap report

The Resolution Foundation today published research into the gender pay gap which shows that it has fallen to just 5% for women in their 20s but that there is still a huge lifetime deficit for women. They said:

Looking at women’s early careers, the analysis finds that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) experienced a pay gap of 16 per cent during their 20s. That gap fell to 9 per cent for women in generation X (born between 1966 and 1980) and then to 5 per cent for millennials (born between 1981 and 2000).

However, despite this progress in the early career phase, the gender pay gap continues to rise rapidly for women in their 30s and 40s. Among baby boomers the gender pay gap rose from 21 per cent at the age of 30 to 34 per cent by the age of 40, after which it started to fall. For generation X the pay gap increased from 10 per cent at age 30 to 25 per cent by the age of 40.

The gender pay gap for millennials rises steeply to 9 per cent when they hit 30, only very marginally lower than the gap for generation X-ers at the same age. This suggests that the old challenges associated with having children endure for young women today, says the Foundation.

Liberal Democrat Equalities spokesperson Lorely Burt said:

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Opinion: To be free from poverty, ignorance and conformity, our society must have robust support for disabled people

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day 2015. It’s the tenth annual day for disabled and non-disabled people to blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination (known as disablism or ableism). It aims to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we’ve made.

An online acquaintance of mine said he was going to write for #BADD2015 in terms of the political parties’ manifestos. Good Lib Dem that I am, I looked forward to hearing some positive stuff about my party. I know there’s lots to talk about.

The Lib Dems have budgeted the £8 billion a year the NHS will need during the next parliament, which is bound to be relevant to the lives of people with disabilities and other long-term conditions, as many of us do seem to see doctors, nurses and specialists often enough to be on a first-name basis with many of them!

The Lib Dems’ unique dedication to improving mental health care is also relevant to many disabled people, both those whose disability is primarily or entirely a matter of mental illness, and those who experience poor mental health as a result of other disabilities. Mental illnesses are some of the most common, and most “invisible,” disabilities in the UK, and at the moment the mental health care many people receive (or fail to) not only doesn’t help them but can actually make their mental health worse.

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Daily Mail tells us a 20 year old story on Jo Swinson’s equalities report

The Daily Mail alights on a Government Equalities Report commissioned by our Jo Swinson and, of course, hones in on the one paragraph in 12 pages that mentions sex.

But just doing the dishes can really spice up a marriage.

That, at least, is the advice from a report backed by Liberal Democrat equalities minister Jo Swinson. It calls on men to do more to support gender equality campaigns – and isn’t coy when it comes to spelling out the potential perks of hoovering.

It claims that everyone in a family becomes ‘happier and healthier’ if men participate ‘fairly in the home’ by sharing childcare duties or household chores.

It goes on to say: ‘Equity in the home is associated with a range of benefits including improved sexual relationships.

‘Where women report an equitable relationship with their partner they are more likely to be having frequent sex.’

The thing is, the research cited in that report is 20 years old. It is, of course, stating the obvious. Let’s face it, if everyone shares the work, there’s bound to be more time for fun.

If the Daily Mail had devoted even half the space it gives over to stories that can be filed under the heading “Woman Goes Out Wearing Clothes” or to having a go at women for working outside the home, or being stay at home mothers, or being too fat, or being obsessed with diets, or being too needy in relationships, or scaring men by being too independent, to promoting this research, they could have driven a really positive cultural change.

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Opinion: A new member’s views on equality

We have heard Nick and Tim’s comments on advancing women by means of all female shortlists. In many ways this is admirable but it’s arguably discriminatory. Firstly it reflects the outdated, but still common, view of gender in terms of men and women when it fact gender variance is far broader; we should be and are the party of the androgynous, gender queer, intersex and all other genders, however by not including them we exclude them, discrimination by omission.

Secondly we are a broad party and need to ensure that all can truly fulfil their potential regardless of whether they fall within the protected characteristics of the Equality Act or not. Yes there may be, and I would argue are, more obstacles for some groups than other but that does not mean that anyone group should be prioritised thus creating or reinforcing “a hierarchy of diversity”
I have often heard and indeed even today heard that it is easier and more effective to focus on one issue and when we have got that right to move on to others. The problem with this thinking is at least twofold.

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Opinion: Confronting gender inequalities in the workplace

Handshake man - womenI am proud to belong to a party that strives to represent the unrepresented, defend the rights of minorities and works hard to achieve equality for all. Our work in government to tackle inequality has improved the lives of many and made society as a whole fairer. But, whilst we have made real progress in improving the deal for women in the workplace, it remains unacceptable that in the 21st century women remain underrepresented at the top and suffer significant pay disadvantages throughout many organisations.

At conference in Glasgow, the Federal Policy Committee will present its policy paper Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential. A paper that addresses, amongst many other vital issues, the lack of women on boards and ongoing gender pay disparities. I wanted to take the opportunity in this blog to outline the difficulties women in the workplace still face and set out what measures we propose in the paper to address them.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Jo Swinson launches Lib Dem campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace

jo swinson Alex Folkes/Fishnik PhotographyIn an email to party members, Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister for Consumer Affairs & Equalities, has launched a new campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace:

Shockingly, in 2012 women were paid nearly 20% less than their male colleagues. It is an unacceptable difference and one the Liberal Democrats are determined to tackle.

Today we’re announcing plans to require large companies to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers. This will create pressure from staff and customers to close any pay gap and

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“No to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act”

ECHR and CleggNo to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act

That’s what Nick Clegg said in his conference speech last week.

This is not the same as saying no to weakening the effectiveness of the Equalities Act 2006. Back in April we nearly lost Section 3, which gives the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) its purpose. Without Section 3 a future government would have less difficulty further dismantling the EHRC. Lib Dems in government raised no objections at the time. But for a strong showing in the Lords, some back-bone on the back benches and an emergency motion at the Welsh Spring Conference, we would have sold the pass on that one.

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Equalities – how the ‘General Duty’ was saved

It was fitting that, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, the government decided to listen to campaigners and save a key element of our equalities laws.

Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) played a leading role in the campaign to save Section 3 of the 2006 Equality Act which provides a vision and mission statement for Britain’s equality watchdog.

This is known as the ‘general duty’ and both informs the work of the watchdog – the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) – which itself is responsible for setting the standard for the rest of our public services.

That is …

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Opinion: Are you a man?

menAre you a man? Have you been or might you be on a fringe meeting panel at Liberal Democrat conference? If the answer to both is yes, I’d like your help…

At the Spring conference just gone in Brighton, I nearly ended up being a speaker on an all-male panel – and one taking place on International Women’s Day no less. The subject – technology and politics – is one where there are a good few female experts in the party, and it was only Olly Grender’s last minute addition which saved my blushes from Mark Thompson’s quite reasonable intention to turn up and put us all on the spot about what was an all-male panel.

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Lord Avebury writes… Gay asylum-seekers: we’ve come a long way, but much still left to achieve for LGBTI people around the world

It is estimated that worldwide more than 175 million people, some three times the population of the UK, are at risk of persecution because of their sexual orientation. Seventy-six countries criminalise consensual same sex relations, among them 54 countries of the Commonwealth.

Hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people is deeply entrenched in the culture of these countries, and their elected governments reflect the prejudice of the masses. They know that persecuting LGBTI people is contrary to international law, and leads to friction with donor nations.

In the case of Gambia, when EU representatives were due to …

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Opinion: Does the debate over equal marriage reveal our blind spots?

Let me begin by saying that I enthusiastically support equal marriage. The ability of two people who love each other to marry regardless of their gender is a blessing, Tuesday’s vote was a victory for liberalism, and despite its flaws the Bill is a big step forward to a fairer society. I found the explanations made by those Lib Dem MPs who opposed the bill to be intellectually unconvincing, sometimes evasive, and fundamentally illiberal.

And yet, I was slightly perturbed by the number of people – and a party organisation – discussing whether to refuse to campaign for the ‘rebels’. …

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Majority back same-sex marriage

Wedding ringsFrom the polling published this weekend:

Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Support: 55%
Oppose: 36%

Amongst Conservative voters the results are 44% – 49% (which is a statistical dead heat, when you remember to factor in the  margin of error).

Interestingly, the majority support comes despite the lead-up to the question being a tadge inaccurate:

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Fighting for the rights of women – all over the world

This week, The Independent has run an interview with International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone – and no surprise that equalities feature strongly in her approach to the job:

Today we are talking about Zambia, from where she has just returned from a trip to meet victims of domestic violence, as well as the First Lady and the newly-appointed Minister of Gender, as part of her brief as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for International Development (DFID).

In Masabuka, Featherstone discussed ways to empower a population where 63 per cent of women believe domestic battery is justifiable. “It’s a culture that is so

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Jo Swinson appointed new Equalities Minister

In an email to party members this evening, Nick Clegg delivered the following news:

Tonight I’ve been hosting a reception to celebrate the Coalition’s commitment to equal marriage, an issue I’m very proud that Liberal Democrats are delivering on in Government.

I was delighted to be joined at the reception by Jo Swinson MP – who I’m pleased to announce is our new Equalities Minister, in addition to her role as Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs.

This news, I suspect, will be greeted with a very deep sigh of relief by many Lib Dems, not only because it means a Lib Dem …

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Maria Miller’s appointment: have you forgotten what was said when Theresa May got the role?

Maria Miller’s appointment to, amongst other things, the Women and Equalities brief has received quite a lot of criticism from non-Conservatives today.

One part of that is wrong, but understandable – a simple mistake in not realising that the role she’s taken on isn’t the one Lynne Featherstone had but rather the one Theresa May had. As the BBC got this wrong, it’s no surprise many others followed in also getting it wrong, even though the accurate information is readily accessible in many places such as in Theresa May’s own write-up on the Home Office website. Not double-checking something the BBC …

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Clegg set to open the way for churches to hold gay marriages

Via The Independent:

Nick Clegg will allow Parliament to go further in its plans to legalise gay marriage and enable churches and other religious institutions to conduct the ceremonies, The Independent has learned…

In a letter to the Quakers, Unitarian and Free Christian churches and Liberal Judaism, who all want to conduct same-sex marriages, Mr Clegg indicated that religious groups could be given the option.

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Lynne Featherstone to reform Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to reform the Equality and  Human Rights Commission, cutting its budget and removing some of its responsibilities, most notably its obligation to assess how Government policies would affect the poorest.

Now, if ever there was a quango in need of reform, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is that body. Dysfunctional seems to be the best word to describe the EHRC. Wasteful would be another. For three years running, the National Audit Office qualified its accounts. Last year was the first year since its formation in 2007 when it managed to …

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MORE SHOCK NEWS: Bill that was going to be in Queen’s Speech will be in Queen’s Speech

Pick and mix your allocation of blame between some Tory right-wing MPs and some political journalists, between deliberate deceit and genuine confusion as you wish, but as the dust settles on yesterday’s political stories about the Queen’s Speech the news is remarkably dull:

  • A Bill that was not going to be in the Queen’s Speech will not be in the Queen’s Speech, and
  • A Bill that was going to be in the Queen’s Speech will be in the Queen’s Speech.

Or in other words, ignore the nonsense about how the absence of an equal marriage Bill from the Queen’s Speech means the government …

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SHOCK NEWS: A bill that wasn’t going to be in the Queen’s Speech isn’t going to be in the Queen’s Speech

The plan wasn’t for an equal marriage Bill to be in this Queen’s Speech, so the news that there will not be an equal marriage Bill in the Queen’s Speech is hardly news – even if some on the Tory right (unenlightened wing)* are trying to turn this into a story about how the government is backing down on the issue.

As Lynne Featherstone, Minister for Equalities, puts it on her blog:

In the aftermath of a tough set of election results for both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – I couldn’t help but notice a few naysayers popping up in the

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Labour MP Ben Bradshaw: gay people aren’t bothered about marriage

Bizarre comments from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw on the government’s plans for marriage equality:

This isn’t a priority for the gay community, which already won equal rights with civil partnerships. We’ve never needed the word ‘marriage’, and all it’s done now is get a bunch of bishops hot under the collar. We’ve been pragmatic, not making the mistake they have in the US, where the gay lobby has banged on about marriage.

As Pink News goes on to report:

In 2010, 98 per cent of PinkNews.co.uk readers that identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans said they wanted full marriage equality*. Mr Bradshaw’s

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Christian group pledge support for gay couples marrying

Pink News reports:

The Progressive Christianity Network (PCN) is the latest British faith-based group to come out in favour of legal recognition of gay marriage.

Reverend John Churcher, a Methodist minister and chair of the PCN, said in response to comments from Roman Catholic bishops – who have urged Christians to campaign against the government’s proposal – that there are very few biblical texts that appear to condemn homosexuality, and that the interpretation of those that do is controversial…

There are now a range of Christian groups on both sides of the debate. Those groups who have expressed support for gay marriage

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Tim Farron MP writes… Equal Marriage consultation: take part and spread the word

One of our fundamental values as a party is our firm belief in equality. This is why I am member of our party and why I am so proud to be your President. We have always stood for individual liberty and the right to choose how we lead our lives. That’s why we came into being in the 19th century to protect the rights of religious minorities, it’s why we led the support for equality for women and why we decided before any other major party that civil marriage should be open to same-sex couples equally. The Liberal Democrats in …

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Is this the most biased opinion poll question ever asked?

The Coalition for Marriage was launched last week. And as many groups do to try and drum up some publicity announce themselves to the world, they commissioned an opinion poll of public attitudes to equal marriage.

Which is fair enough. But then, it appears, a thought struck them. The UK is, by and large, a tolerant nation, with the vast majority now accepting of gay and lesbian relationships being respected and recognised. So… how to pose an opinion poll question that could produce the result they wanted?

Thankfully, ComRes (a member of the British Polling Council) did them proud. You can read …

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone on marriage – this is not gay rights versus religious beliefs

Writing in the Daily Telegraph Lynne Featherstone says:

I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, irrespective of whether they are gay or straight.

We are not prioritising gay rights, or trampling over tradition; we are allowing a space for the two to exist side by side…

Marriage is a right of passage for couples who want to show they are in a committed relationship, for people who want to show they have

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Lynne Featherstone MP writes… We do not just elect individuals, we elect people to be members of a team

Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest edition, looking at Parliamentary representation.

Our Parliament has come a long way in recent years. In fact, watching ‘The Iron Lady’ with Margaret Thatcher sticking out like a blue female sore thumb amongst the total male greyness of the then chamber – it reminded me of how recently in history this establishment was nearly all male.

However, despite real progress, it is still nowhere near reflecting the percentage of women in the country – and that is without even starting to talk about …

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The Lib Dem Candidates Leadership Programme – a participant’s view

Last weekend marked the official start of the Candidate Leadership Programme, with a residential training weekend in Greenwich. For many, this Programme marks an important shift in thinking to improve the diversity of our Parliamentary Party. I write this piece to give a participant’s point of view.

Despite efforts for years to get candidates from diverse backgrounds to become approved, sadly, and not without great effort on behalf of organisations such as the Campaign for Gender Balance (CGB), the result did not show in terms of elected Parliamentarians.

The Leadership Programme is designed to focus on the steps post-approval and selection, to …

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